The keys to Spain's strategy against the mandatory cut in gas consumption proposed by Brussels

The possibility that Vladimir Putin decides to cut off the gas tap has set off all the alarms in the EU given that the heart of Europe depends to a large extent on Russian supplies. This is not the case of Spain, which has diversified the market in different countries, and only 10% depends on Moscow. That's why The government has cracked down hard against the European Commission's proposal to force reduce demand by 15% if Putin fulfills the bad omens for next winter.

"Spain does not support this proposal", were the words with which the Third Vice President and Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, made clear Spain's rejection of the plan that the European Commission sent to the partners without having previously negotiated it: " We will not allow proposals that make us suffer above what is required of other community partners”. The government found out community executive plans through the leaking of a draft in which the percentages did not appear, but it already pointed to binding consumption reduction targets. Pedro Sánchez himself transferred his disagreement to the president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

For the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the proposal is based on a premise that they do not share, and that is that the community government has made a calculation that 45 bcm will be needed (which is the basic measure for gas) and has made a division among the 27 member states that has given it the result that it will be necessary for each one to lower its demand by 15% in a mandatory way. But the Government argues that each State has a casuistry. In the case of Spain, they maintain that it is not efficient to act on demand –although a contingency plan is being worked on with which they aspire to achieve a certain limitation that they have not yet quantified– but that it is more favorable to act on supply.

What does it mean? The Government wants its European partners to take into account that Spain is already showing solidarity, since 20% of the gas it receives directly or indirectly goes to other countries, especially France (approximately 10% through the gas pipeline ) and Portugal. This is a figure that exceeds double the average of the last five years. And Spain is willing to make this capacity available to the rest of the countries, which represents 5.6 bcm of the 45 that the EU has calculated will be needed in the next eight months.

That number could rise. if the Musel de Gijón were used as a logistics platform with a capacity of 8 bcm. Ships could be redirected to northern countries from that port. However, it is not yet operational and sources from the Ministry of Ecological Transition estimate that it will take five or six months. Something similar would happen with the Midcat gas pipeline, but the project is designed for future winters with the forecast that the energy crisis does not have an end on the horizon.

Sources from the department of Ribera explain that 50% of gas consumption in Spain is destined for industry; 25% to the energy sector; and the other 25%, to SMEs and households, so the Brussels plan would have to be applied to industry since in no case is it contemplated that it affects families. Thus, they see very little room for reduction and, furthermore, they maintain that it would be a competitive disadvantage for the Spanish economy, which has done its homework in the energy sector, or at least more so than other countries that have maintained their dependence exclusively on Russian gas because at another time it was beneficial to them.

What the Government does not want is to reveal the cards of the negotiation that has been opened within the EU. The European Commission has already winked at it by proposing that countries that do not have an interconnection or that have a limited interconnection with the rest, which is the case of Spain with France, could reduce demand by 10% instead of 15%. But it doesn't help the Government either, which avoids talking about how far it is willing to give in (5%, 2%...) because it is in the 'no' to the binding objective of reducing demand.

Spain and Portugal go hand in hand again in this new fight with the EU, as occurred in the energy market negotiation in which Pedro Sánchez and António Costa did not achieve their maximum positions, but an Iberian exception was made to put a cap on the price of gas with which electricity is produced in order to lower the electricity bill. light. In addition to sharing some arguments, such as the investment that both countries have made in renewable energies, Spain understands the specificity of Portugal given that it does not have interconnection and is isolated from the rest of the countries. What efficiency is there in reducing demand if that reduction is not going to reach the rest of Europe? What advantage does it give to the rest of Europe? They ask themselves in the Ministry of Ecological Transition, where they insist that a linear answer should not be given for all countries.

That is why the Government has initiated contacts with the rest of the States to try to add supporters to the rejection of the regulation disseminated by the Commission. For now they see possibilities with Greece, Poland, Hungary or Italy. From the department of Ribera they maintain that they are not looking for a blocking minority but rather a consensus so that there can be an agreement at the meeting of energy ministers next Tuesday. Now, for the update of the regulation to go ahead, a qualified majority is needed (55% of the Member States, that is, 15 of the 27 and representing 60% of the population) while to block it, four countries are required represent 35% of European citizens.

The conversations with the partners have begun at different levels (the vice president, the Secretary of State for Energy, Sara Aagesen, the technical teams, the consular representation before the EU...) and in the Ministry they do not see it necessary for now for Sánchez to pick up the phone to seek a common front with other heads of government. What they do demand is that the EU leaders address the matter in order to give it a political orientation. In any case, what they assure in the Executive is that if they lose the pulse, Spain will abide by the decision and will not declare itself in absentia.

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